Remember Me? – Matt Frattin’s Path from Promising Prospect to AHL Veteran

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COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 21: Matt Frattin #21 of the Los Angeles Kings controls the puck during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets on January 21, 2014 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
“Remember Me?” is a Toronto Maple Leafs weekly series, looking back on Leafs prospects of the past, what their Leafs career was like, and where their post-Leafs career has taken them.

For this first instalment, we’ll be taking a look back at a fan favourite, Matt Frattin.

Welcome to Toronto, Matt Frattin

Matt Frattin was in the Maple Leafs organisation for parts of seven years. Drafted 99th Overall in 2007, Frattin was one of the Leafs top prospects for a few years. A speedy, strong, goal-scoring winger, he was an exciting piece for the Maple Leafs. He attended the University of North Dakota, playing well as a freshman and sophomore, looking to earn his ice-time. That came in his third year with the Fighting Sioux, as a junior. Frattin had 19 points in 24 games and was looking like a legitimate scoring threat, but his season was abruptly halted after a DUI arrest.

The DUI resulted in his removal from the team, and his scholarship was revoked. In a fantastic personal comeback story, Matt Frattin made his way back onto the Fighting Sioux for his senior season. He destroyed the WCHA, leading North Dakota in scoring with 60 points in 44 games. At the conclusion of North Dakota’s season, Frattin signed a two-year entry-level deal with the Maple Leafs and thus began his Leafs career.

Early Leafs Career

Matt Frattin made the 2011-12 Leafs out of camp, but inevitably split time with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. In the end, he played well in his first professional season, with 15 points in 56 NHL games, and 18 points in 23 AHL games. His spot on the Leafs was all but guaranteed for the following season. He was sent down for the AHL playoffs and was a goal scoring machine for the Marlies.

Then, came the beginning of the fall for Matt Frattin. It was Game Five of the Western Conference Finals against the Oklahoma City Barons, the AHL affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers. It was a seemingly harmless play. Frattin, looking to seal the game for the Marlies, who were up 2-1, battled his way down the ice towards the Barons’ empty net. As he used his 6’0”, 200lb frame to shield the puck and push it into the goal, Frattin fell down. The puck went in, giving the Marlies the victory, but at a cost. Frattin went feet first into the net, suffering a significant knee injury that would require surgery, and take him out for the rest of the playoffs. At the time, Frattin was expected to make a full recovery but would miss some time at the beginning of the 2012-13 NHL season.

Lineup Regular

But, then came the lockout. Matt Frattin was assigned to the Marlies once again but showed he was NHL ready, whenever the Leafs inevitably began play. He registered 14 goals and 18 points, in 23 games. Eventually, the 2012-13 NHL season began, and Frattin started well.  Very well, in fact. Playing alongside Nazem Kadri and Joffrey Lupul, Frattin was firing out the gate. In his first 10 games, he had seven goals and 10 points. As a 25-year old, Frattin was quickly becoming a fan favourite, as well as cementing his place in the Leafs lineup.

Then, on February 13, 2013, the recurring knee issues began. It was announced Matt Frattin was going to miss a minimum of one week with an MCL issue. A medical procedure was required. In the end, Frattin missed 23 of the remaining 38 games in the regular season. He returned on March 9, nearly a full calendar month after his initial “one-week” timetable. He just wasn’t the same player upon return. Frattin, in the final 15 games of the season, registered just three assists. No goals. It was obvious the knee injuries were taking a toll on the 25-year old already.

The Leafs had made the playoffs, however. This brought along one of the most infamous moments of Matt Frattin’s career, on May 13, 2013. Every Leaf fan remembers this date. If you need a refresher, yes, this is the date of Game Seven against the Boston Bruins. Frattin, with 3:40 left in the third of the then 4-2 game, stole the puck from Bruins defenceman Dougie Hamilton and broke out on a breakaway. He nearly pulled off the forehand-backhand to perfection. The backhand effort went barely wide. We won’t go over the rest of the game, the wounds are still too fresh.

Leaving Toronto

Following the disappointing 2013 playoffs, Leafs General Manager Dave Nonis was looking to make some changes. One of those was in goal. On June 23, Matt Frattin, along with Ben Scrivens and a second-round pick, was traded for Jonathan Bernier. Suddenly, the once promising goal scorer who started the year on a point-per-game pace was headed to Los Angeles.

Frattin has never recovered from his second knee injury. In 78 NHL games since February 13, 2013, he has just 10 points. The injuries have taken a toll on the once speedy, physical, scoring winner. His career in Los Angeles never panned out, being a part of a package deal to Columbus for Marian Gaborik. He stayed a half season in Ohio before coming back to Toronto, in exchange for Jerry D’Amigo.

Although he hasn’t found NHL success due to his injuries, he has been a steady AHLer. In 2014-15, back with the Marlies, he had 26 goals and 48 points, in 59 games. He stayed in the AHL in 2015-16, being traded mid-season in the Dion Phaneuf trade. The Ottawa Senators loaned him back to the Marlies, where he finished out his NHL contract with 34 points in 71 games.

What is he up to now?

Frattin, having recently celebrated his 29th birthday, is unlikely to get another NHL opportunity. He seems to have embraced his new minor league veteran role, however. After accepting he wasn’t going to get an NHL contract, Frattin signed with the Stockton Heat, the Calgary Flames’ AHL affiliate. He’s played very well for the Heat, playing in the top six, usually with young stars Andrew Mangiapane and Mark Jankowski. In 31 games, Frattin has 10 goals and 20 points so far this season. Just as he did last year with the Marlies, he is the alternate captain. The Heat currently sit fourth in their division, looking to make the playoffs.

Where Frattin’s career goes from here should be interesting. He can either stay in North America, playing in the AHL as a veteran, or go overseas, possibly to the KHL, looking for a bigger payday. Regardless of what the next step is for Frattin, he will be remembered fondly for his short Maple Leafs career which brought fans to their feet with his electric speed, physicality, and goal scoring.

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